‘Roaring Trade’ is the latest play to grace the stage at Finsbury Park’s intimate neighbourhood theatre venue, Park Theatre. It shines a spotlight on Canary Wharf, exposing the ugly dog-eat-dog world where money is everything and humility is unheard of. Playwright Steve Thompson (think Sherlock and Dr Who) has whipped up a storm of a script which sees speedy dialogue and short scenes offering a snapshot of life as a bond trader at investment bank McSorley’s.
Written in the wake of the financial crash, Roaring Trade is all about the people behind the screens: the competitive scramble to the top, the pressure of delivery, class rivalry, betrayal, insecurity, greed and pride. Director Alan Cohen has successfully ensured that the actors dialed up expression to the max; sitting a mere metre away from the stage the tension for the audience during scenes of conflict is electric, and the stress experienced by the characters truly palpable.
'Queen Elizabeth I ruled an entire nation by flirting with the boys' Jess
Addiction it certainly is for cockney Donny, whose daring attitude isn’t too dissimilar from the Merchant of Venice’s Bassanio (‘if I lost an arrow I would try to find it by shooting another arrow in the same direction’). In his prime, he is immediately threatened by the new kid on the block, Cambridge graduate Spoon. Nicknamed so because his colleagues believed he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, his real name now evades me! The two unsurprisingly lock horns on a number of occasions, not least because they are from different classes. Donny ridicules Spoon for his wealthy upbringing, and Spoon goes so far to disdainfully call Donny ‘scullery boy’ during a moment of anger. Only on being opportunists can they agree, with Donny believing ‘trouble is opportunity’ and Spoon living by the ethos that ‘there’s risk in everything that matters’.
The most human of all traders came in the form of PJ (Michael McKell), an over-the-hill drunk whose inability to control his anger at the system triggers his early retirement. By his own admission PJ tried to ‘humanize’ his colleagues before his dismissal, encouraging them to talk about the outside world...albeit to no avail! Paired with a superficial wife accustomed to the finer things in life, we see resentment build between the pair as PJ announces his plans to throw in the towel at work. The audience becomes an uncomfortable fly on the wall as PJ chows down on his lasagna and Sandy looks increasingly concerned. Forced to downsize and change their lifestyle, or ‘make do’, PJ noticeably becomes happier on leaving McSorley’s, not that that same can be said for his wife. We spot a shimmer of Jess in wife Sandy (Melanie Gutteridge) in her admission that during her bygone days in the city she too, as a woman, had to ‘play her part’.
And play her part Jess does all too well, apparently following royal example, ‘Queen Elizabeth I ruled an entire nation by flirting with the boys’. As she pulls the rug from under Spoony’s perfectly polished shoes and reduces him to a fumbling mess, we are left in no doubt that the Alpha-Male here is in fact Jess. They say it's a man's world, yet her ability to wipe the trade floor with Spoon proves that this is not the case.
Despite both PJ and Jess imploring Donny to have a proper conversation it isn’t until the end of the play that we see Donny really listen to them. His final words ‘I want to have a conversation’ fall on deaf ears. By this point he’s already made a monster of his son Sean (William Nye), who appears to be dangerously close to following in his father’s footsteps.
Overall ‘Roaring Trade’ should be celebrated as a huge success; a believable and destructive depiction of life in the city.
Author: Sarah Moor
You have until Saturday to see the show - book here now.
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